Pakistan Women’s Football Team ended its AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers with an emphatic victory against the hosts, Tajikistan. Zahmena Malik was on the scoresheet for her side as the Shaheens registered their maiden win in the Olympic Qualifiers history.
Tajikistan 0-1 Pakistan – as it happened
After losing their opening two games, against the FIFA Women’s World Cup-bound Philippines and a resolute Hong Kong side, the Pakistan Women’s football team showed great character and resilience in their third and final game in the competition.
Pakistan took the lead early in the first half with Zahmena Malik opening the scoring in the 25th minute. Amina Hanif played in Zahmena through Tajikistan’s defence with a well-weighted pass. The 21-year-old ran half the length of the pitch, before slotting the ball past on-rushing Tajikistan’s keeper with great composure. Later in the second half, the London Seaward forward came very close to doubling the lead for Pakistan, as her curling effort, from outside the box, hit the crossbar.
It was an evenly-matched contest with both sides having plenty of attempts on goal. But the Pakistan team put on an excellent defensive display, maintaining their one-goal lead throughout the 2nd half, and eventually emerged victorious.
Significance of this victory for Pakistan
It was a significant victory for the Pakistan Women’s Football Team as they registered their first-ever goal and first-ever win in the Olympic Qualifiers. Some personal milestones were also achieved in this match as Zahmena Malik scored her maiden goal for the Pakistan Women’s National Team. That goal will definitely increase her morale, going ahead, as she was struggling in the opening two games of the tournament.
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Moreover, Pakistan’s head coach, Adeel Rizki, will also be delighted by his team’s performance as some key members were missing from Tuesday’s match. Maria Khan was sidelined with an injury sustained in the opening match against the Philippines, while Nadia Khan suffered an ACL injury prior to the start of the tournament. But vice-captain Malika-e-Noor marshalled the defensive line well in the absence of Maria, whereas Zahmena led the forward line with great confidence in Nadia’s absence.
What’s Next for the Pakistan Women’s Football Team?
Pakistan finished its Olympic Qualifiers campaign in the third spot and failed to progress to the next round. Since the FIFA ban was lifted from the Pakistan Football Federation, Pakistan Women’s Football Team has made great strides. They seem to be heading in the right direction, but they require more international exposure, and football at the club level needs to be promoted.
Pakistan Women’s Football Team’s next big assignment is the 2024 SAFF Championships. But before that, they are expected to feature in plenty of international friendlies that will help to bring the best out of this young and promising squad.